In the workplace, men are twice as likely as women to be rude and
uncivil, and they respond more quickly and directly to coworkers'
rudeness, management professors Christine Porath and Christine Pearson
concluded in their book, The Cost of Bad Behavior. "But that
doesn't mean women won't get even," Porath, who teaches at Georgetown,
pointed out. "They tend to respond passive-aggressively, such as
withholding needed information, spreading rumors, or the silent
treatment. We learn these ways of coping very young on the playground
and, sadly, they stick." Women tend not to confront incivility head-on
or to complain to a colleague or boss. Thus, the offender isn't
reprimanded or coached on a change in behavior, Porath said. "This
reinforces the inequality."
Men, indeed, may need to tone things down. But Eve Tahmincioglu, a columnist on careers for MSNBC.com,
thinks that women also need to toughen up. "I'm sick of getting e-mails
from women managers who take everything so personally," said
Tahmincioglu, the author of From the Sandbox to the Corner Office.
"I think it's keeping women from moving forward. Sometimes a [business]
report just sucks, and a guy can take it.... Women stew about it, e-mail
about it, tweet about it. They've got to get away from that."
Unimportant, perhaps--even petty. But the way workers present
themselves has all sorts of ramifications. Two of the biggest barriers
for women in advancing their careers are failure to make their
achievements known and to find people who could help their careers,
according to a survey conducted last year by Catalyst, a nonprofit group
that presses for workplace opportunities for women on three continents.
"When women were most proactive in making their achievements visible,"
the report states, "they advanced further, were more satisfied with
their careers, and had greater compensation growth than women who were
less focused on calling attention to their successes."
Women also need to find sponsors, not just mentors, said Susan
Nierenberg, Catalyst's vice president of global marketing. The
difference? A mentor is "someone who talks with you. A sponsor is
someone who talks about you, someone who advocates for you. Women are
mentored to death and not pro-moted. Men are mentored and sponsored--and
Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer at Facebook, is the
epitome of the highly successful businesswoman and mother. She has been
speaking around the country about her concern that women in the
workplace often "leave before they leave." That is, they start to
worry--long before there's any need--about whether they can simultaneously
raise a family and hold a high-powered job.
"Maybe it's the last year of med school when they say, 'I'll take a
slightly less interesting specialty because I'm going to want more
balance one day,' " Sandberg said in a commencement address at Barnard
College last spring. "Maybe it's the fifth year in a law firm when they
say, 'I'm not even sure I should go for partner, because I know I'm
going to want kids eventually.' ... And from that moment, they start
quietly leaning back." They don't pursue promotions or agree to overseas
transfers. Her "heartfelt message," Sandberg said, is "do not lean
back--lean in. Put your foot on the gas pedal and keep it there until the
day you have made a decision."